Cast and crew of Lena Waithe’s millennial lineup on BET gathered in New York on Monday, February 10, 2020 to debut Season 2 of Boomerang and Season 1 of Twenties, ahead of March air dates.
Just doors past BET’s 40th Anniversary exhibit, attendees crowded every tier of the Paley Center’s theater. Boomerang castmates Tetona Jackson, Tequan Richmond, Lala Milan, Leland Martin, RJ Walker, and Brittany Inge sat to the right. Alongside them, Jojo Gibbs, Gabrielle Graham, and Christina Elmore awaited their series premiere for Twenties. Executive producers Lena Waithe (Boomerang and Twenties), Susan Fales-Hill (Twenties), Angeli Millan (Boomerang), and Dime Davis (Boomerang) prepped for the post-screening panel.
Up first on the roster for the night, Twenties debuted the unapologetic protagonist Hattie, navigating her twenties in Los Angeles and pushing towards a career in television. Hattie (Gibbs) adds a queer female lead character to BET’s programming. Her two straight best friends Marie and Nia are played by Elmore and Graham.
Following the series premiere of Twenties, Boomerang screened the first episode of its Season 2. While inspired by the 1992 film of the same name, Boomerang the series sets itself apart by establishing new characters only to to be further developed throughout its second season. Simone (Jackson) and Bryson (Richmond) maneuver life after the dramatic unfolding of last season’s finale. The rest of the characters are stuck in the middle of the rift. But that doesn’t stop Tia (Milan), Ari (Thomas), RJ (Wright) and Crystal (Inge) from their own personal journeys towards friendships, careers, and relationships.
Both Waithe’s contributions to BET breathe a comedic tone to the lives of millennials coming into their own in the digital age. The two series had the full theater crying from laughter, stanning quotable comebacks, and relating to undeniably Gen Y motifs. In addition, audiences not only see the homages paid to iconic Black cultural staples but how much impact they made on younger generations. In that way, older generations are also grappled by the shows’ references and nostalgia.
Twenties and Boomerang aren’t premiering for BET Networks viewers until March 4 and March 11. So you’ll have to wait a bit before you can kick back and take in all the laughs—with your shoes off of course, just like Lala Milan at the premiere. But don’t fret. We met up with Lena Waithe and the cast on the red carpet for some series appetizers.
The Knockturnal: Your work exposes stories of underrepresented communities—queer black folk, black women, and more. How important is it to bring representation to these groups?
Lena Waithe: Well queer blackness is blackness, and I think that we have to remember to stop separating it. I think, I think you can’t separate my blackness from my queerness or my queerness from my blackness. And what I found is the black community has been overwhelmingly supportive and has embraced me. So I think this, this notion of behind the 8-ball on that, I don’t know if that’s really necessarily true. I think that our community is ready to embrace all of what makes us what we are. And we’re trans, we’re non-binary, we’re gender-queer, we’re asexual, we’re homosexual, we’re bisexual, we’re transexual, we’re pans. We’re all those things. And to ignore that part of us would be to ignore all of us. So, for me, it’s really not just a responsibility but it just, it, it’s something that happens very naturally. I can’t write a show about black people and not include queer black people.
The Knockturnal: So you’re about to premiere Twenties. What has it been like mixing in inspiration from your own past into your creative process in making television shows and movies?
Lena Waithe: Everybody’s twenties is terrible. Now, I think that if you’re in your twenties right now—that’s where it’s only loosely based on me because when I was in my twenties, social media wasn’t as prevalent as it is now. So I think that is a whole other element that twentysomethings have to deal with in a way that I didn’t necessarily have to. That’s why it is an element in the pilot that didn’t necessarily happen to me, but could happen to a twentysomething now twentysomethings do later regret. So, I, I just—to me, I think it doesn’t matter when you came of age. When you do it, it is difficult because you’re trying to figure out who you’re supposed to be while grappling with the times in which you live. So, I, I, I could relate. It’s, it’s universal, it’s relatable—whether you’re in your twenties or not because everybody’s been there, everybody’s done it, and only a few of us survive.
The Knockturnal: So Boomerang, it’s a spinoff of a classic film. Did you have any challenges bringing that to a second season?
Lena Waithe: No. I think we were really excited about Season 1, but we were trying to find it. And now, what’s exciting about Season 2—Dime Davis and Angeli behind me have taken the reins—it’s really about being artful. It’s about really bringing what Boomerang represented into a new age because Boomerang is like a bible for a lot of us—particularly for me. I mean, you can’t look at me and not see the Marcus Graham influence. I was surprised—I was kicking it with Martin Lawrence last night at the Vanity Fair [Oscar] Party. David, David Alan Grier was Mister Huge Supporter, but ultimately—with Halle Berry obviously was an EP on the show, Robin Givens and all that kind of stuff—they represented a time in Black Hollywood where they were pushing the narrative forward. They were being rockstars. They were like the black Rat Pack, and we short of picked up that torch. And what does the black Rat Pack look like now? It looks like that cast [of Boomerang on BET]. It looks like Tequan, it looks like Lala, it looks like Tetona, it looks like Leland, it looks like Brittany Inge. And so that will never go away. That’s always gonna be—there’s always gonna be the cool kids. And the truth is, more often than not, the black kids are the cool ones that you wanna hang out with. And so, Boomerang represents that, whether in the ’90s or in 2020. It never gets old. It’s always relevant, and I’m grateful to bring them back for a Season 2.
Tequan Richmond and Tetona Jackson
The Knockturnal: How important is it for young people to see the stories Boomerang characters Simone and Bryson portray—smart, driven individuals going after their dreams and goals?
Tetona Jackson: I think it’s really important. I think it’s important especially for me—I can speak for myself but—not seeing that many black people or people of color on TV growing up, I think it’s great that we have more shows and shows like our show where you get to see black millennials trying to like figure out how to maneuver through life and deal with their issues with friends individually and problems, the workplace, all this stuff. And it’s cool to see real people on TV.
The Knockturnal: So how have your characters changed since Season 1?
Tequan Richmond: I would say there’s a big change in Bryson from Season 1 to Season 2. We can expect to see him do what he’s always wanted to do.
Tetona Jackson: Haha.
Tequan Richmond: Haha. What, what? Haha. He catches her.
The Knockturnal: Is there a story here?
Tetona Jackson: No, I’m playing, I’m playing.
Tequan Richmond: There will be a lot more fun in Season 2. Bryson’s coming into his own man and we’re really just having fun with Season 2.
Tetona Jackson: Yep. The same. You mean as far as my character goes? Well, the way Season 1 ended, I think you get to see a shift in Simone. There’s—she’s a little bit more grounded Season 2, not as in your face, you know. But, I mean, she’s still her. But I think she’s growing a little bit and knowing that she did mess up and kinda trying to work through that with herself and her friends.
Tequan Richmond: Oh she messed up! She definitely messed up.
Tetona Jackson: That’s true.
The Knockturnal: When you saw the script for Season 2, were there any surprises for you? Shocks?
Tetona Jackson: Not necessarily shocked, but I was—I mean the whole season is really fun. It’s really out of the box. It’s very different from Season 1. But, there are—there are a few things that I was like ‘Oh this is really cool and this is really dope.’ You just gotta watch and find out. But yeah, there were definitely moments for me where that, that I was like, ‘This is fire. This is really dope.’
Tequan Richmond: To say that to say, Boomerang, March 11, Wednesday.
Tetona Jackson: Only on BET.
Tequan Richmond: Only on BET:
Tetona Jackson: 10 p.m. I think it’s 10 p.m.
Tequan Richmond: 10 p.m.
The Knockturnal: Your characters are very strong and driven. In celebration of Black History Month, are there any strong black people that you are inspired by in your careers or take inspiration from in playing your characters on Boomerang?
Tetona Richmond: Man, that is a tough question, There are so many. Obvi, Lena. I mean, Lena is one of them. You know, just seeing how driven she is and how hard she works and what she’s accomplished. And you know, like, she’s a phenomenal woman and a phenomenal woman of color in the industry. So, to be where she’s at, she’s—you know, it’s fire seeing her work and to be a part of a project that she’s involved with is ridiculous.
Brittany Inge and Lala Milan
The Knockturnal: What is in store for your characters in Season 2 of Boomerang? How have your characters changed since we last saw them?
Lala Milan: Okay so Season 2 Tia Reid is literally going to be shown more. She’s going to be showing who she is as a woman, her personal beliefs. But we’re literally going to have an actual storyline built out for her. So you’ll get to know her, what she’s passionate about, also her personal side, and whether or not she has a new love interest, you know, and how she feels about it—like I think it’s going to be something serious for Tia.
Brittany Inge: For Crystal Garrett this season, you are going to see her step out of the shadows of all of her friends. She’s been a big support system to all of her friends, like a mother figure and supporting their stories. And this season, you’re gonna really see her step into her own—just take the reins of her own story and really lead her journey and go on a journey literally and figuratively.
The Knockturnal: How important is it to bring these stories of black women to television as a whole and to BET? And for audiences to get stories of black women not only in Black History Month but beyond?
Lala Milan: Well, it starts March 11 so Black History will be over that month. But it’s important just for black people to be able to see themselves in a positive manner. This show’s actually showing black young millennials as being successful, being able to be entrepreneurs, and take a hold of their life and actually have control of it. And that’s a great narrative to see instead of us actually being in jail you know, getting in trouble, and all that extra stuff. We show the struggles, but we also show how we overcome ’em.
Brittany Inge: And I also think that black people that are striving for excellence, we know that we make history year-round, you know what I mean. We’re not just confined to one month. February is beautiful, but we making Black History every day. And I think it is important to see these characters going after their dreams and try to be a part of history in their own right as we’re all making history as the storytellers bringing these stories to light.
Lala Milan: That’s true.
The Knockturnal: Are there any strong women in your lives that you take inspiration from for your characters?
Lala Milan: Yeah, I think that’s a real good question. I ain’t gonna lie, I surround myself with nothing but strong people in general you know. My mom, Niecy Nash, Sherri Shepherd, Lena Waithe—you know, those are some top ones who I can think about also didn’t have a problem pulling me up and making me even more stronger and allowing my freakin’ power to shine.
Brittany Inge: Yeah, I love, I love that answer. I think as far as inspiration for the character, strong black women that come to mind—I think definitely my mom, but when also when I think actors who have been like grinding for a long time and who don’t always fit the mold of what Hollywood deems as acceptable, I think of people like Niecy Nash, I think of people like Mo’Nique, I think of—like that, that’s who comes to mind. And those women and the stories they’ve been able to tell really inspire me so yeah.
The Knockturnal: Do you have any advice for young people and young women who want to find their voice?
Lala Milan: For the young people who are out there who want to find their voice, I would tell you: 1. to stay consistent and don’t be afraid to try different routes to find out which one is most comfortable to you and which one fits you the best. It’s okay to try to figure out exactly who you are. But once you truly find it, stick to it. And that’s when you’re gonna go the furthest.
Brittany Inge: I love that. What I would say to young people going after their dreams is do not be afraid to invest in yourself and do not try to force it to come quickly. It’s not gonna come quickly. It’s not gonna come quickly oh, and that’s okay. It doesn’t have to come quick. It needs to come the right way. You want quality over quantity, you know. You know you want quality over quick, quick fix. So, I would just say, be willing to invest in yourself before you ask somebody else to invest in you. and make sure that you’re willing to do the work and really going the journey to get the results that you say you want.
Lala Milan: That’s good.